If you haven’t yet heard, over the weekend the culture wars exploded (again).
This time, a fundamentalist social media evangelist accused Starbucks of hating Jesus (and guns); the gauntlet was thrown in a video decrying the coffee giant’s choice to remove all seasonal cuteness from their holiday-themed cups, opting instead for a minimalist red/green aesthetic that somehow dishallowed the season even further than had been previously thought possible.
The proposed response to this offense? Give every barista who wants to write your name on your drink the moniker “Merry Christmas,” so the poor coffee-brewing drudges are forced to shout this Christ-centric greeting to announce when your drink is done.
The irony in all this is thicker than the foam on that grande decaf soy latte you just drank.
Start with the fact that the winter wonderland decor removed was in no way Christ-centric; let’s also note that plenty of earnest Christians have worked at Starbucks, including the bi-vocational pastor-barista at my church, and my spouse, who paid for living expenses in seminary by donning the black polo shirt and green apron.
Most ironic of all is that this guy actually has a point, though probably not the one he meant to make.
The truth is, 95 percent of us self-proclaimed Christians probably spend 95 percent of our holiday seasons leaving the “Christ” out of Christmas.
Extravagant gift buying; culinary and alcoholic excess; stress over party planning and present wrapping; tree lighting extravaganzas and tantrum-ridden trips to mall Santas; grumbles about having to see those relatives or sing carols with those coworkers; daydreaming about what to buy with hard-earned bonuses; and, dare I say it, whipping up church programming that, while heart-warming and hopefully even community-building, doesn’t really get at the utter radicalness of the flesh-and-blood Son of God coming into the world.
To try to live into that, we’d probably need a total clean slate on this whole holiday hoopla that rules from Halloween through New Year’s. Maybe kind of like—ahem—the “blank canvas” of the plain red cup that Starbucks explained was their way of “inviting customers to create their own stories.”
What if those stories looked like inviting a single dad who just got evicted to live in your guest room for a few months? Or giving your bonus straight to a non-profit aiding Syrian refugees? Or turning your church’s basement into a homeless shelter? Or spending your entire gift budget on a used vehicle to help an ex-convict get to her new job? Or worshipping with a congregation of a different race or theological bent for all of Advent?
I asked my ex-barista spouse what he thought of the whole controversy.
“Honestly,” he said, “maybe an uncluttered cup is what our minds should look like in the holiday season,” open to the paradigm-shattering presence of God-with-us and ready to respond with an outpouring of generosity, mercy, love, hospitality, and justice for those least valued in our luxurious, coffee-drinking culture.
“So guess what, Starbucks? I tricked you into putting Merry Christmas on your cup,” proclaims the righteously indignant video activist.
Let’s prove him right.
Let’s put Christ into every available blank canvas we find this holiday season.
Starting by buying a big cup of coffee for someone in need.
Rev. Leah Lyman Waldron is a thrift-vangelist, writer, preacher, preacher’s wife, mama, and Midwesterner transplanted to the South. She has a not-so-secret passion for pop music and loves being the lone millenial in her baby boomer-filled yoga class. Born & raised UCC, she’s bi-vocational, preaching at Decatur UCC in Atlanta every other Sunday while doing admin work at a big Presbyterian church during the week. She blogs at http://thriftshopchic.com.